COVID-19 outbreak plan

Read about how we'll respond to positive COVID-19 cases at ARU.

Summary

This plan summarises the University’s response in the event of confirmed COVID-19 cases at ARU. Actions in this plan are not exhaustive and provide high level guidance only. The plan is supported by detailed operational resilience plans and protocols.

Our plan has been tested in desktop, scenario-based exercises involving the local authority Public Health Teams and is proactively and continuously reviewed. The Directors of Public Health in both Essex and Cambridgeshire have agreed our outbreak plan and we have shared it with the Department for Education.

It is important to note that our plan is subject to change, sometimes at short notice, in response to new advice and guidance being received from the UK Government and Public Health England (PHE).

In-person teaching and learning

Our plans for in-person Teaching and Learning are aligned with operational guidance provided by the Government. This guidance outlines the ways in which all universities can minimize risk during the coronavirus pandemic.

Asymptomatic testing will be strongly encouraged prior to students re-commencing face to face teaching and we expect staff and students to take tests regularly when they are on campus.

Prevention

Our focus is on providing a COVID-19 secure working environment for those on campus and empowering and supporting staff to work as ARU moves to an Agile working culture.

We have supported our staff and students to understand national guidance and observe the mitigations we have implemented to reduce the risk of virus transmission. The primary actions are maintaining social distancing as well as good hand and surface hygiene.

Read a summary of the COVID-19 secure measures we have implemented.

One of the corner stones of our safe environment is requiring anyone with COVID-19 related symptoms to remain at home, whether that is in private or University owned and managed accommodation.

We also ask students and staff to order a free test online by visiting https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test, and to let us know the test result as soon as they receive it.

An NHS COVID testing site opened in Sawyers car park, on our Chelmsford campus, in October. It is operated by the NHS and can offer a test to people who have booked one; this may include University students and staff. A number of NHS test sites also operate around Cambridge and Peterborough.

We have also laid out our expectations of staff, student and visitor safe behaviour online and within our community pledge.

As part of the Government’s efforts to roll out asymptomatic COVID-19 testing across UK universities, we launched a University Collect service on 24 May with collection points at each of our campuses (including partner campus sites in London). Packs of lateral flow antigen tests for home use are distributed from the designated collection points.

We expect staff and students undergoing face to face teaching or working on campus either teaching or supporting our students one day a week to take a weekly asymptomatic COVID-19 Lateral Flow test, and advise staff and students working or teaching more than once a week on campus to take two tests a week where possible. This also applies to students living on, or within walking distance of our campuses. We expect staff and students to report results to the NHS.

Guidance on steps to take on receipt of a positive result is provided to staff and students. Individuals will follow the national and ARU self-isolation arrangements to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Students will be encouraged to use local community testing programmes and take a test before travelling if they are able to do so.

Incident response

We recognise that even with these measures in place there will be cases of COVID-19 in our community. We have simple, effective mechanisms for staff and students to report both self-isolation as well as positive cases.

If someone becomes unwell, we have developed an internal protocol to manage this effectively. It establishes notification mechanisms, contact identification and the necessary communications in addition to allocating responsibilities to give a timely and appropriate response.

Our protocol is outlined below and recognises action for isolated cases as well as consideration of outbreaks.

Outbreak protocol

A dedicated MyHealth team, working on a rota seven days a week, provides support and coverage for the University in relation to COVID-19 related matters. Our service standard is ‘same day’ and quicker wherever possible with immediate actions taken on positive cases.

In the event a positive test result for COVID-19 is reported the following steps will be taken in addition to the prescribed cleaning arrangements.

1. Initial data collection

Details of the individual including date of symptoms and positive test result as well as the date and their activities when last on campus are compiled.

This is shared with public health officials using a secure online portal and an outline of the case sent to the Health Protection Teams.

2. Contact tracing

We will work rapidly to identify those who have been in contact with the confirmed case. This will be achieved through our systems or from dialog with the notifying person.

For the purposes of contact tracing and isolation ‘close contact’ means having face-to-face contact with someone less than a metre away (even if a face-covering or face-mask is worn) or being within two metres of an infected person for 15 minutes or more.

Personal details including address and telephone number are available within our student record and HR systems and a new report using tap and timetable data has been developed to identify both staff and students who were present in a classroom or library setting over a defined period. In some teaching environments registers may also be held and will support contact tracing.

Students have been reminded of the importance of informing us of any absence or illness.

More details about how we use your personal data for COVID-19 management can be found in our privacy notice.

3. Communication

We will write to everyone who has been in the same teaching, work or halls of residence environment as the positive case offering reassurance and guidance.

In many cases the threshold to require self-isolation will not be met as members of staff and students maintain two-metre social distancing. In addition, and whilst not recognised by the NHS for the purpose of contact tracing, the use of visors (for staff) and face coverings further reduces the risk of transmission.

Anybody who does need to self-isolate will be contacted and asked to do so. Both practical and wellbeing support will be offered to them and any other ARU student they may live with.

Escalation

If we identify two or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 among students or staff who are direct close contacts, proximity contacts or in the same cohort in the University or halls of residence within 14 days – this is defined as an outbreak.

This would be reported to public health officials and in liaison with the University senior management and public health officials, a risk assessment of the outbreak may indicate that measures to restrict in-person contact (including in-person teaching) may need to be implemented and/or self-isolation of one of more halls of residence.

Both operational resilience plans and accommodation support plans are in place to support this.

Please be aware that if it is agreed that halls need to be put into self-isolation this would happen at very short notice. See full details of how we will support students.